My Mates Fell in Soccer's Sack Race . . Thank God I Never Joined Them; MICK CHANNON EXCLUSIVE `Now I've Got 100 Bosses - and That Makes All the Difference'
Nickless, Graham, Sunday Mirror (London, England)
MICK CHANNON gets up at the crack of dawn each morning, pulls on his wellies - and thanks God that he turned his back on the treacherous world of football.
These days the aroma of horse-muck fills Channon's lungs - and he reckons it's a breath of fresh air compared to the smoke-filled boardrooms of Premiership football.
Channon has mixed feelings about the sport he graced for so long after seeing two of his closest friends in the game go through torment this season.
Kevin Keegan, once Channon's strike partner when the pair terrorised defences for England and Southampton, has turned to Channon's world of horseracing for solace after finding the pressure of management at Newcastle too much to bear.
And Alan Ball, another old Southampton team-mate and also a devotee of the Sport of Kings, is currently doing the after-dinner rounds after being chucked out of his manager's job at Manchester City.
Channon says: "I feel for both of them - and I hope that one day they will get back into football, if that is what they want.
"Kevin is a big boy and I don't think he will want Mick Channon or anyone else worrying about him too much.
"He has got plenty of dough and can handle his own pressure.
"But personally I don't think that it was the pressure that made him leave.
"I don't know what happened there, to be honest - but something was not right.
"Kevin owns a stable and a stud. He enjoys the horses - and we try to make it work for him.
"I know a little about what Alan must have gone through at Manchester City, because I once played there and they couldn't make things work then.
"It is a club with too many indians and not enough chiefs, and there has got to be a boss in charge.
"It must have been difficult for Bally, and I wish him well. Hopefully he will get back into the game because he still has a lot to give."
Channon, not surprisingly, doesn't regret not following his buddies into football management.
He did once try for a managerial position at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the late 80s, but when they offered him the chief coaching job instead, he told the club where they could stick it.
Now Channon is delighted that the door to soccer management was slammed shut in his face. The striker who used to celebrate his goals with that unforgettable `windmilling arm' trademark is now a respectable trainer in the famous racing fraternity of Lambourn, where he looks after 100 horses - five of whom belong to Kevin Keegan and his wife Jean.
These two footballing charmers used to murder old First Division defences back in the early 80s.
Together they plundered 52 League goals in two seasons when the Saints really were marching on.
Now Keegan and Channon are focused on caning the bookies and becoming a Classic duo again.
Channon, who turfed football out of his life a decade ago, says: "I was fortunate enough to have been a professional player for 23 years, where I travelled the world and met some great characters.
"But my first love is for horse- racing now - and I would love to think that one day we could win a Classic race.
"It is that ambition which gets me up early in the morning.
"I dream about training a Classic winn
"I want to be up there competing with the best like champion trainers Henry Cecil and John Dunlop - and beating them!"
Keegan has thrown himself into several business ventures after walking away from football. He is planning to build a new golf course on his land at Ringwood in Hampshire, as the Sunday Mirror exclusively revealed.
Keegan's first public appearance back in England after leaving Newcastle was at Catterick racecourse - and he is hardly off the phone to Channon asking for an update on his horses. …